When suddenly confronted with illness, one most sees the value of being part of a partnered relationship. As the condition rages on, both the effected individual and the significant other work collaboratively to respond and make it better, thereby strengthening the bond that already exists between them. I’ve discovered this particularly in light of recent experience.
Given that the topic in this week’s post is Illness and Care, I suppose it isn’t surprising that most folks are writing about some sort of food-related incident. My case was no exception.
My girlfriend and I had just attended a wonderful wedding of her sister, and then went to a reception. Therein, a fairly light meal was served, so by 8 PM we were both pretty hungry. I opted for a meatball sub with parmesan cheese from Subway, a choice I later came to regret.
The night continued, with us taking in the UNC Tar Heels game in the NCAA tournament and excitedly chattering about other things. Meanwhile, first in my subconscious and increasingly taking over my awareness, I began to notice that something was really wrong. Right before drifting off, I stated: “Ugh, I’m feeling kind of bubbly. I wouldn’t be entirely surprise if I have to vomot later. This might be a long night.” Oh, how right I was.
Up with a shot, I realized I had three seconds to get to the restroom if I didn’t want to soil the floor. I managed to stay quiet the first time, but by the second time I’d awakened her as she is generally a light sleeper.
With regard to communicative response, her actions were quite helpful. After engaging in dialogue to get a sense of the severity of the situation, a sort of ethic in and of itself as suggested by Arnett, Fritz and Bell (2009, p. 195), she threw on some clothes and ventured into the early morning to obtain medicines for me. Her previous experience with such illness, (4 different incidences of food poisoning) meant that she knew the most proper response immediately. I have no doubt that her quick, sure actions not only prevented me from having to seek medical attention, but caused that condition to be a lot less worse than it would have otherwise been. Examining the incident through the lens of dialogic ethics (Arnett et al., 2009, p. 204) demonstrates how she and I managed the situation within the context of our budding relationship. First, there was the willingness to listen without demand. No one wishes to be awakened at 5 AM after a long prior day and have to deal with this kind of issue, but still she allowed her care for me and for the between that is our larger relationship to govern her actions. Then, there is attentiveness. How best to respond to the situation? As previously stated, her former run-ins with food-born illnesses, as well as the degree of sickness I actually displayed, definitely informed her ability to respond effectively. Finally, there was dialogic negotiation. Even as she offered this intense degree of care; ladling out medicines, letting me know how much fluid to ingest at a given time, and advising me on which “foods” would be safe to eat; she secured a promise from me that I would do the same if she were to end up in a similar condition. I think that the relationship between us would demand nothing less of me.
I felt fortunate that this only really went on for a day. She rushed me home, concluding later that a better response may have been to allow me to recuperate within her place of residence so that she could keep a tighter watch on me. I wouldn’t say that this was an unhelpful response per se, but it was an area in which we saw a chance for a different response at least. After all, there is always room to learn and grow within the context of any such experience.
Arnett, R. C., Fritz, J. M. H., & Bell, L. M. (2009). Communication ethics literacy: Dialogue and difference. Sage Publications.